They are the RCMP’s eye in the sky, but now Air One and Air Two will be a lot closer to home for Langley residents.
The BC RCMP Air Services section has moved their two helicopters from YVR South Terminal to the Langley Regional Airport.
Insp. Nigel Bushe, Officer in Charge of the Air Services, said the move to Langley makes them more central to get to crime scenes and it is also more cost effective.
“To get our helicopter out of YVR we often had to wait 10 to 15 minutes to get clearance because it is such a busy airport,” said Bushe. “We didn’t get priority treatment, even if it was an emergency.”
Now Air One can get from Langley Airport to Whalley in three minutes.
It can fly over to Maple Ridge in that same time.
The RCMP have signed a long-term lease for hangar 47 and have been flying out of Langley since June.
“Langley is dead centre,” said Bushe.
Right now there are two pilots and two tactical officers but Bushe is hoping that number grows to four or five. They are also hoping to bring a third helicopter on board.
“We are hoping the third helicopter can be a twin engine. That will allow us to hover, and do border searches and work with the Americans,” he said.
The RCMP Air One launched in 2006. Shortly afterwards, the province bought a second helicopter.
Since then air services has helped with hundreds of arrests, vehicle pursuits and recovery, locating suspects trying to run and hide and helping find lost hikers.
“We track down a lot of stolen vehicles, at least a couple a week,” said tactical officer Const. Tammy Sandquist.
She uses a camera that can zoom in 1,500 feet, allowing her to get details like gender, hair colour, clothing of suspects and make and model of vehicles.
They have the ability to track the speed of a vehicle just as if they were driving behind it, she said. They do a lot of traffic work, especially on the Sea to Sky Highway, where they have caught many excessive speeders.
“I’m not really a techie. I like to fly and catch the bad guys,” she said of all the equipment used inside the helicopter. They also use thermal imaging equipment.
“It’s a nice tool that has helped us located many missing people who are lost in trails. If they shine any type of light when they hear us, we can track them immediately.”